Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and axillary lymph nodes to other parts of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain. Unfortunately, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer at this time. Treatment and other supportive care focuses on length and quality of life by providing relief from cancer-related symptoms.
Majority of women aren’t diagnosed with metastatic cancer when they are first diagnosed with breast cancer. Metastatic cancer usually develops after diagnosis and treatment of early-stage breast cancer.
Survival rates vary from person to person. One study found that 37% of women live at least 3 years after diagnosis. Some women may live 10 years or more beyond diagnosis. New therapies are emerging from research and more women are living longer with metastatic cancer.
Treatment for metastatic cancer is highly personalized. It depends on the cancer and what the patient values more: the benefits or harms from specific treatments. Certain treatments have side effects that can lower quality of life. Depending on the patient and the cancer, some treatments may not offer much benefits.
Treatment plans are reliant on these factors:
- Characteristics of the cancer cells
- Where the cancer has spread
- Past breast cancer treatments
- Person’s goals
- Person’s strength or physical condition
Scientists are working tirelessly to find a cure for metastatic breast cancer. Some projects that Komen is funding are:
- Identifying genes and processes that cause breast cancer cells to metastasize
- Developing and testing new therapies to prevent and treat metastatic breast cancer
- Discovering new methods for predicting or detecting metastasis using urine or blood tests, or body scans
For more information on metastatic breast cancer, click here.